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How long does it take to earn associate's degree?


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October 25, 2012 5:38PM

Answer 1: I see that this question is part of the "UCAS applications" category, which pertains to the UK. Associates degrees are uncommon in the UK. They're a decidedly US and Canadian (mostly US) sort of thing. Most of what's covered in a US associates degree is covered, in the UK, as part of things like GCSE and GCE A-levels, O-levels, etc.

That's why US bachelors degrees are four years long, whereas UK bachelors degrees tend to be only three years long: Because in the US, what's normally covered in the UK in GCE/GCSE, A/O-levels, etc., is typically covered in the first roughly year-and-a-half (or so) of the typical US bachelors degree. Since the US associates degree is little more than the first two years of a US bachelors degree, then a US associates also covers those same basic subjects as the UK's GCE/GCSE, A/O-levels. And US students go straight from 12th grade (high school) into either a two-year associates, or four-year bachelors degree program.

Students in the UK already have what's mostly covered in a US associates degree by the time they enter a UK bachelors program, hence the reason a UK bachelors program is typically only three years long, whereas a US bachelors program is four years long. Truth is, a three-year UK bachelors covers more coursework in the major than does a US bachelors; so an argument could be made that someone with a US associates, and then a UK bachelors, is actually better educated in whatever is the UK bachelors degree's major than are most US students educated in whatever is their US bachelors degree's major!

The US also doesn't have the three-year "certificate" then "diploma" then "degree" system, wherein one may exit a three-year UK bachelors program after the first year, and earn a "certificate" in whatever is the major; or may exit after two years, and earn a "diploma" in whatever is the major (and then, of course, a "degree" is earned if the student stays the whole three years).

The UK also tallies its credits differently than the US does. The UK uses "points," and a typical year's worth of points in the UK is around 120; and so a three-year UK bachelors degree equals 360 points. The US tallies in either "semester credit hours," or "quarter credits," depending on which system the US school in question happens to use.

In the US...

At most regionally-accredited schools in the United States (US), an associates degree -- designated as "Associate of Arts" (AA), or "Associate of Science" (AS) -- consists of sixty (60) "semester credit hours" (if the school is on the "semester credit hour" system), or ninety (90) "quarter credits" (if the school is on the "quarter credit" system), either of which may be completed in two (2) years of full-time study.

At most US regionally-accredited schools, "full-time" study means either 30 semester credit hours (if the school's on that system), or 45 quarter credits (if the school's on that system) per year... accomplished either during the normal semesters or quarters, or during those plus summer sessions.

A small number of schools require a tiny bit more credits for an associates. Some (again, a small number) of schools on the semester credit hour system require 66 semester credit hours of study in order to earn one of their associates degrees; and an even smaller number of schools on the quarter credit system require as many as 94 to 98 quarter credits in order to earn one of their associates degrees. But, again, such schools are in the minority. At most US regionally-accredited schools, either 60 semester credit hours (if that's the system the school is on), or 90 quarter credits (if that's the system the school is on) will earn an associates degree.

Most US regionally-accredited schools, just FYI, are on the semester credit hour system.